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Macron in Pole Position to Defeat Far-Right Le Pen for French Presidency

Macron Le Pen elections
Emmanuel Macron has secured a 4 point lead in the first round of the French elections against Marine Le Pen. Video screenshot

French President Emmanuel Macron will face the far right’s Marine Le Pen in a presidential run-off on April 24th after leading the first round on Sunday.

With 99 percent of the results counted, Emmanuel Macron had 27.6 percent of the vote while Marine Le Pen had 23.4 percent and leftist Jean-Luc Mélenchon had 22 percent.

Macron warned against complacency in a speech Sunday night, saying that “nothing is decided” and he would work hard to convince more people to vote for him.

“When the extreme right in all its forms represents so much of our country,” he said, “we cannot feel that things are going well.”

He addressed Le Pen voters too: “I want to convince them in the next few days that our project answers solidly to their fears and challenges of our time.”

Le Pen says time for a “great changeover”

Le Pen said it was time for a “great changeover,” with a fundamental choice on April 24th of two opposite views: “Either division and disorder, or a union of the French people around guaranteed social justice.”

She has built her campaign around the cost-of-living crunch facing much of Europe, promising to cut taxes and waive income tax for under-30s. There has been less emphasis on nationalism, but she wants a referendum on restricting immigration, radical change to the EU and a ban on the Islamic hijab in public areas.

Le Pen has in the past shown sympathies for Russia and President Vladimir Putin and has been openly skeptical about the European Union. She has tried to distance herself from Putin and her campaign staff have denied reports that they were ordered to destroy thousands of leaflets that included a photo of Le Pen alongside Putin.

Mélenchon polled even better than five years ago and now has the unlikely role of kingmaker.

“You must not give a single vote to Marine Le Pen,” he warned his supporters, but unlike other candidates, he pointedly did not back the president instead.

Making up more than a fifth of the vote, Mélenchon voters could decide the final round of this election; yet many of them may just sit the second round out and abstain.

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